Ex-Leaders Urge More Russian, Western Dialogue to Avert Ukraine ‘Escalation’

Ukrainian servicemen look on as an armored vehicle with a Ukrainian flag drives past in a convoy headed towards the eastern city of Debaltceve, in the region of Donetsk, on July 30. A group of former European and Russian officials on Thursday urged leaders on all sides to exercise restraint in resolving the conflict.
National Journal
Sebastian Sprenger
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Sebastian Sprenger
July 31, 2014, 10:40 a.m.

Former top Rus­si­an and European dip­lo­mats are ask­ing their coun­tries’ lead­ers to ramp up co­oper­a­tion, not es­chew it, to re­solve a ma­jor rift over Ukraine.

Re­call­ing “ba­sic les­sons of crisis-man­age­ment learned dur­ing the Cold War,” the group of eld­er states­men made their plea in a po­s­i­tion pa­per re­leased Thursday by the European Lead­er­ship Net­work and oth­er think tanks.

Among the doc­u­ments’ sig­nat­or­ies are not­able Rus­si­an fig­ures, in­clud­ing former For­eign Min­is­ter Ig­or Ivan­ov and the Krem­lin’s for­eign-in­tel­li­gence chief, re­tired Gen. Vy­acheslav Trub­nikov. European sig­nat­or­ies in­clude past for­eign and de­fense min­is­ters of Po­land, the United King­dom, Spain and France.

Their pa­per comes as a con­flict over Ukraine between Rus­sia on the one side and Europe and the United States on the oth­er threatens to spir­al out of con­trol. West­ern of­fi­cials sus­pect Rus­sia of prop­ping up pro-Mo­scow sep­ar­at­ists in the east­ern part of the coun­try, pur­pose­fully destabil­iz­ing Ukraine. Many Rus­si­ans see the con­flict as a must-win battle against West­ern ef­forts to en­croach on their bor­ders.

The re­cent down­ing in Ukrain­i­an air space of a ci­vil­ian pas­sen­ger jet, which killed nearly 300, has fur­ther stoked ten­sions as a search for the per­pet­rat­ors un­folds.

For starters, the po­s­i­tion pa­per pro­poses that all sides em­phas­ize re­straint to their re­spect­ive mil­it­ary chains of com­mand. In ad­di­tion, mech­an­isms for dis­pute res­ol­u­tion must be strengthened, the doc­u­ment re­com­mends.

“The NATO-Rus­sia Coun­cil has barely met since the crisis in Ukraine erup­ted,” the former of­fi­cials lament. “E.U.-Rus­sia crisis man­age­ment ar­range­ments also do not ex­ist.”

They also warn that strictly uni­lat­er­al meas­ures, such as a Rus­si­an in­va­sion in­to Ukraine or tough European sanc­tions against Mo­scow, likely would back­fire rather than re­solve the con­flict.

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